Tag Archives: Deltawing

Petit Le Mans the Debrief

Just two weeks after an excellent time at Lone Star Le Mans I headed down for my third Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

It was a good experience, things were up and down, but overall I had an incredible time…. all things considered it was a nice way to end my year of Motorsport marshaling in the United States. I have of course still a few trips left including one International event in December one in January and one in February, but I’ll talk about that later.

To start the debrief I have to mention that I was not impressed with my luck this year when it came to booking flights and other travel related expenses. I had pretty much screwed myself with the trip to Austin booking expensive flights through remote connecting cities when a cheaper option popped up just days later on direct flights. Well, the same situation repeated itself with Atlanta. I booked a flight from Philadelphia which I thought was cheap, and 25 hours later it went down in price. Had it happened 24 hours later I could have cancelled and rebooked but that wasn’t my luck. Philadelphia played host to Pope Francis visit the weekend leading up to my flight on Monday, so getting to Philly wasn’t cheap either, and I was slightly concerned that I wouldn’t make my flight if the blocked off zones of the city weren’t opened up in time. But I made it. Upon arrival into Atlanta I had overpaid for the rental car too. Unlike the previous two years the prices were thru the roof, and the option I chose was the more expensive one because instead of tenting it in the campground I decided to use the SUV I rented. At least I lucked out with a large enough vehicle (this wasn’t of course without a fight, Thrifty refused to give me a larger car so I went with Advantage and even they tried to squeeze me into a Mitsubishi Outlander which is small, but eventually I got into a Toyota Rav4 which was just right).

petit le mans 2015 rental car and camping vehicle

Leaving the airport I headed south, not north where the track is located. I had ordered a sleeping bag from Sears to be available for pick up upon my arrival so I didn’t have to drag it with me thru NJ into Philly and then down to Georgia on my flight. It was meant to arrive the Southlake Mall about 9 miles from the airport by the time my flight got in, of course that wasn’t the case, the bag arrived a few days after my arrival so I ended up canceling the order. Instead I took advantage of the opportunity to search some local places to eat and stumbled upon Sonny’s BBQ just about a mile away from the mall. Little did I know it was the same Sonny’s that have a booth set up in the vendor village at Road Atlanta every year. I made friends with a great lady that took my order named Leslie and made sure to visit her during the race where she surprised me with a complementary sammich! It was the most amazing food I’ve had all week… thank you Leslie!

appalachin bbq in georgia at petit le mans road atlanta

Big thanks to the crew at Turn 7 for inviting me to sample some of their spectator’s BBQ from the Appalachian mountains of Georgia. What an excellent tasting pulled pork they let me have a taste.

pulled pork from appalachin georgia petit le mans at road atlanta turn 7

The organizers of marshals for Petit Le Mans: Atlanta Region SCCA, fulfilled my request to work “Alpha” at the pit exit area of the main straight, just after the Starter stand and before Turn 1. That was awesome. But for some reason the corner captain at Turn 1 didn’t want to acknowledge that my station was a legitimate station. I got a sense that she was sort of belittling it’s role and by extension my role being there, when it came to flagging. I didn’t appreciate that at all. Not sure what sort of threat she felt from my flagging as it would relate to her station, but I certainly didn’t look at it that way. I treated Alpha as an independent station and flagged my heart out because it’s an incredible Blue flag spot. Of course for every incident at Turn 1 we mirrored their flags which are a bit hard to see with the way the station is situated. I even caught myself displaying a Yellow flag before Turn 1 flaggers had a chance to put their’s out because I saw the incident happening before they did. That was cool.

My reputation preceded me when it came to working with the chief of Start. The only thing he wanted to advise me of when we met is not to take any pictures. Which I didn’t. I did find it pretty ironic that others on the Start stand had no problem tacking pictures and sharing them on facebook. So my reputation seems to be a bit unfounded, I certainly don’t do things that nobody else does. But whatever. Here are some pictures that I did take:

petit le mans 2015 alpha flag point and turn 1 in the distance

2015 petit le mans start finish front straight

2015 petit le mans lamborghini blanpain super trofeo

2015 petit le mans continental tire sports car challenge

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The racing was pretty interesting, especially where I was stationed. Though it seems most incidents seem to have been repeatedly happening in the Turn 5 region, we had some great spins and even hits along the front straight and down at Turn 1. I got to witness several PC cars bin it. I also saw the Ligier P2 smash at night time in the rain. I later got to sign the nose cone of that P2 which had my name, the message: “Go for the Win!” and “#MarshalCam” clearly visible on race day. That was pretty neat.

2015 petit le mans grid walk 2

Though it rained on race day, I was pretty comfortable because the flag chief set up a canopy over our station which did a great job keeping is fairly dry. I also used the new wet weather gear I recently bought which kept me exceptionally dry even when I was walking around in the rain, and more importantly it was breathing enough that I wasn’t drenched from sweating inside of it. I did somehow manage to put a hole through one of the pant legs, which makes me pretty mad at myself. I always tend to damage my gear when marshaling.

Others, including the media were complaining about the treacherous conditions during the event. But I thought they were fairly predictable. We did have the hurricane Joaquin moving up the coast in the Atlantic, and while it rained in Georgia for a week leading up to the event, I can’t help but wonder if the hurricane had any contribution especially as the event progressed to race day. What was happening on race day wasn’t really racing. Most cars were taking it slow, especially those in the PC field. The Daytona Prototypes tried hard, but like the Trans Am races I attended in the wet at Lime Rock where T1 cars were blown away by quicker (in the rain) T2, the same phenomenon happened at Road Atlanta. DP’s, P2’s, and PC’s were slow. GTLM were absolutely quick, yet GTD cars were not. So I wonder if the Michelin tire had anything to do with the quickness compared to Continental Tires on everything else.

We were told in the morning briefing that the race has to last only five hours and a second to be called as a full race. But just after five hours came about, the race director called for Red Flag and we were advised to seek shelter. Luckily I had parked the Toyota SUV on pit lane across from my station, so I quickly turned on the heat on full blast, took off my damp shoes and let the sox dry out. It was so cool. I found the radio station that had IMSA broadcast and listened to the speculation of what’s going to happen next, just like everybody else. A very short time later we were back on station, preparing to go Green. But after the restart we seemed to have Full Course Yellow about every five laps or so when someone would go hydroplaning into the tire barriers or a concrete wall. A few incidents happened at Turn 1, many more happened around Turn 5 area and finally at 7pm the race director called it a race and Checkered Flag was shown. It wasn’t without controversy, I’m sure. Even I thought to myself that they must have had to re-position cars for the finish to their liking, because at 5pm the order clearly wasn’t favorable. But who knows what really happened. I would imagine this historic race with it’s shortened schedule and a GTLM car taking overall win was completely manufactured, and most fans could see right thru it. I don’t think IMSA did itself any favors with doing something so blatant. We all know it isn’t right for competitors to cheat, I don’t think the series as a whole should resort to cheating either.

So that was that. The last race of the IMSA season. And my last American race down at an amazing track that is Road Atlanta. I had a good time. I had tasted some great food, which is always a plus. But I don’t know if I have a burning desire to come back next year. Throughout the event I couldn’t help but think how much Motorsport advertising actually works, because every time I saw the Spirit of Daytona car with it’s Visit Florida livery I just pictured myself in Miami… that trip is next, and a little time swimming in the ocean and relaxing on the beach is just what I need after this!

2015 petit le mans grid walk 1

Media from the Paddock: Sahlen’s 6hr at the Glen

Was super lucky to work Station 4 for one of the days during the Sahlen’s Six Hour at the Glen this weekend, and it was a convenient place to walk over to the paddock for some pics. It was very wet, to the point that TUSC qualifying, Porsche GT3 Cup and Lamborghini Super Trofeo races were abandoned.

Not much to say about that but have lots of pix to share:

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I love whenever I have an opportunity to take some good shots of race cars fully assembled and on display. I’m sure everyone loves seeing them too… Enjoy!

Post Card from Road Atlanta, Petit Le Mans 10h TUSC 2014 Season Finale

Only one word can describe this entire trip: Perfect!

Absolutely, positively perfect trip to Road Atlanta to volunteer at Petit Le Mans, the 10h TUSC season finale. Let me tell you why, and if you get a sense that I’m just tripping over myself with joy after a fucking miserable start to the year with Daytona and Sebring, you’d be correct in getting that sense, I’m as happy about this trip as I could ever be. Loved it, absolutely loved every minute of it!

So lets start at the beginning. The flight was cheap. The destination was unique. I picked Savannah flying JetBlue because it was really cheap, like few hundred dollars cheaper than flying direct into Atlanta. Why did that make me happy? Because a day after I booked my trip, JetBlue offered 20% discount, and I was able to call back and re-book at the even cheaper rate with no questions asked. And that made me really happy. The car rental too was cheap. I typically monitor the prices and rebook constantly to get the best deal. Well I got a steal of a deal, because the price dropped by half from the first time I booked to the one I actually kept. And I got a ridiculous amount of miles for my rental with Southwest, which means I’m within range of getting a free flight next time I fly a short hop. How can I not be super excited about that? FlyerTalk would be proud of me. And when I arrived at Savannah to pick up my car, I got a brand spanking new Nissan Note with 500 miles on the clock. I was the first to roll that car over 1,000 miles and got 37.2 mpg doing it on my little Road Trip, which just made me super happy.

Arriving at Road Atlanta I was welcomed by my fellow volunteer Robert who hosted me in a very comfortable pop-up camper. Much better experience than camping on the ground in a tent, that’s for sure. Especially with the rain and cold weather that inevitably rolled in. But no rain could piss on my parade, I was constantly surprised with positive experiences and was just glowing with excitement.

turn 5 road atlanta petit le mans 2014

My first day marshaling I got to work with the legendary Willy Perez as my captain at Turn 5. What a blast that was. Fantastic blue flag opportunities all day, three unique views by rotating from 5 Flags downhill and 5A uphill. And I got to interview Willy for #MarshalCam , incredible!

For the remainder of the weekend I was bumped to Turn 1 again with Nancy. I was besides myself. I got an opportunity to work Turn 1 last year for race day only and had nearly 10 hours of blue flag there, how lucky for me to end up there the whole weekend? Very lucky! I loved it so much because Turn 1 is amazing at Road  Atlanta. You’re right at the exit of the pit lane, with perfect view of everything going on there. Walking distance to the paddock, so I got great photos roaming around during my off time. I must remember to request Turn 1 at other tracks because it had such a positive effect on my overall well-being and happiness volunteering this weekend. As luck would have it though, for race day I saw an even better opportunity to flag at Alpha which precedes Turn 1, is on the main straight just after the Starter stand, but an even better post for blue flag. I agreed to work 10 hours there without relief, so I would not compete with anyone else from Turn 1 for blue flag (there were 8 on station), but Starter sent people every hour to partner with me, so we shared the blue flag duties. It was incredible. I want to do Start in the future so to watch them work was a great learning experience. Although at the end of the event Nancy criticized me for blue flagging on restarts which I thought I was well within my rights to do. Nancy was super cool giving me a #MarshalCam interview also, so I’m forever grateful to her and others on station that participated also.  You can see my station (Alpha) right over my shoulder from these grid walk photos:

petit le mans grid 2014

Love the new aero package on the DeltaWing:

deltawing petit le mans 2014The fun didn’t stop at the track, during the worker dinner and party on Friday night I got super lucky with the prize drawing winning some much desired Mazda and Mazdaspeed swag:

mazda mazdaspeed swag petit le mansNow I have some hats to wear when I finally buy my Miata MX-5 and a t-shirt sized for my future girlfriend (size S) wink wink…

If you think I’m going to stop ranting and raving about Petit Le Mans and Road Atlanta here you’d be wrong… The event was fun, but post event touristy stuff was even more fun! I got a perfect opportunity to have a very nice breakfast with Tim & Heather, Robert and Brendan at an Atlanta suburb Waffle House. Laughter never stopped, and we got more Waffle House edition #MashalCam interviews done there. Freaking awesome!

But that was not the end. Five hour drive later back to Savannah I was hosted by a really friendly and welcoming lady who besides CouchSurfing also had some paying AirBnB guests. The fun continued there exchanging stories, and even sharing some sightseeing and foodie experiences with a young lady from Portland that we spend the next two days together roaming around Tybee Island, Hilton Head, SC and downtown Savannah being tourists. I won’t bore you with details of all the fun we had, but just drop some of my favorite photos below:

seafood feast at crab shack tybee island

Seafood sampler at the Crab Shack on Tybee Island, GA

chicken and waffle savannah

Chicken and Waffles at Loc’s in Savannah, GA

bbq savannah

BBQ sampler: ribs, chicken and pulled pork. Savannah, GA

You can hate me later after you stop salivating. I tried so many good and delicious dishes from various BBQ meats, to Seafood samplers, Crab Cakes and Conch Fritters, Chicken and Waffles, Grits and Hashbrowns, Biscuits and Gravy…

Oh man… I just want to go back already!

Northeast Grand Prix ALMS debrief

I was not feeling it. The whole atmosphere of this year’s Northeast GP was somehow off. It was supposed to be amazing. After all I had just returned from Europe working the actual Le Mans… I was going to work with my friends at Lime Rock, what more could I ask for? Well Friday night I was just one bad decision away from going home and not returning.

Luckily I stayed. Saturday morning, on race day I was still out of it. I asked my buddy Tim where he and Jessie were stationed and he was like: “we’re together dude!” which made me feel a lot better, I mean we were team JRT after all, even though I was totally thirdwheeling the entire weekend. I also found out we were at Turn 1, which made me go “WOW!” that’s one hell of a station to work for ALMS. And finally when the flag chief called station assignments I discovered I was made corner captain, which just made me laugh. Why me? Usually Tim likes this sort of thing… but at least I knew I wasn’t going to be stuck doing something I wouldn’t enjoy. In that spirit, I made station assignments based on people’s requests. It may sound a lot looser than it actually is, but I know from my experience when I’m doing something I enjoy doing, the time flies.

Thanks to the heat the time didn’t fly during the race though. It felt like the exact 2 hours and 45 minutes that it was. Unfortunately for Tim and Jessie, they were marooned across track at the outpost for the entire race. I tried to “create” opportunities to cross with the only full course yellow until that point occurring at our station thanks to a high-sighted prototype challenge car, but it wasn’t happening. All in all, the race was OK… not the greatest ALMS race I’ve been to, not even as good as I remember last year’s race to be, but it was good. Something was holding it back from being amazing. Not sure what.

The station assignment was quite perfect though. We were able to do the grid walk for the Le Man’s style start, and mingle with teams and drivers before the big event. It gave Tim and Jessie a final opportunity to sticker up cars they didn’t get a chance to over the past few days, and they did a spectacular job doing it. These guys have some serious balls doing what they did… I on the other hand would be contacting the organizers, the team head offices, etc. and probably getting rejected at every step of the way, while they went there and had the driver’s put the stickers on the cars, that’s about as good as it gets.

It will be sad not to see prototypes racing at Lime Rock Park next year with the United SportsCar Series… its the second track I’ve lost in my home area in two years, after NJMP lost Grand-Am… but I guess I’ll have to travel elsewhere to volunteer…

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alms lime rock sponsoraflagger

The highlight of the weekend was a call I requested that Brendan make to Race Control in the early stages of the race. Pat from Watkins Glen had complained that the blue flag was shredding off the handle, every time we used it. And at turn 1 we used it aggressively. I had a quick look at it, and told him that that’s how flags generally are with the NY SCCA region… but being corner captain and allowing myself to start and finish the race on blue flag, I found my right hand was cramping after only 15 minutes into the race, because I was clinging onto the cloth part of the flag. The grip was so tight because I worried I’d lose the flag when waiving it in a spirited fashion to allow the prototypes to zoom past the slower GT/GTC traffic. Brendan reported our blue flag catastrophic failure to Race Control whom promptly delivered a new flag for us to flog 🙂

DeltaWing @ Petit Le Mans

One of the coolest cars in the line up this Petit Le Mans was undoubtedly the DeltaWing. Designed but rejected for IndyCar series, funded by a big name in NASCAR/Grand Am: Chip Ganassi, with input from Don Panoz of American Le Mans fame, the car is like nothing else on the track today. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DeltaWing) It made its debut in the 24hr of Le Mans this year, crashed out… then crashed out again in Petit Le Mans practice. But once it finally raced in the 10 hour enduro it sparcled, finishing 5th overall!
Looking forward to seeing it again next year!

PS. the part where he says they would have been leading the race had they got passarounds and such, is absolutely true. The car ran very strong.

Petit Le Mans – ALMS season finale @ Road Atlanta

I faced a real dilemma deciding whether to jump on the opportunity to go to Korea for the F1 GP. Fortunately after quickly checking flights for the return trip, I realized I could have my cake and eat it too… You see I had already made plans to go to Road Atlanta for the 15th annual Petit Le Mans, the deciding race of the American Le Mans series. Going to Korea meant that I would miss a big chunk of that racing, luckily thanks to good availability with American Airlines AAdvantage, I was able to arrive just in time for ALMS practice.

Besides the flights, my major concern was cost of rental car and accommodation. Luckily Sixt came through big time. While all other car rental companies, including Sixt, were showing rates in the $30 a day range, there was a promo at Sixt for $19.99 Chevy Cruze in select cities, including Atlanta airport. Luck like this doesn’t happen to me often, I jumped on the deal saving a significant chunk of money. Similarly, CouchSurfing came through as I found a host in Gainsville, Georgia just twelve miles away from the track.

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The racing itself was spectacular. In addition to the usual suspects, a number of teams came from Europe bringing with them beautiful prototypes I haven’t seen in action before. Several teams from France, UK, Ireland and Switzerland were represented, including a gorgeous Lotus prototype that set the pole and won the race, giving the Muscle Milk #6 a good run for the money (had it not been crashed out by the #34 Green Hornet Porsche, it would have probably won though… the same Green Hornet that smashed the #0 Deltawing making it rollover in free practice).

The most interesting part about Petit Le Mans was the fact that it was an endurance race. My previous longest race was a Six Hour at the Glen for Grand Am series, Petit Le Mans was 10 hours or 1,000 miles, going well into the night where the only lights on the circuit often enough were those from the cars. It was super cool blue flagging the race in the dark, trying to make out the prototypes vs. GT’s and keeping track who’s in the lead. But I quickly got the hang of it, which surprised even myself.

I had a really wonderful time meeting a lot of new people from the Atlanta Region, many employees of Road Atlanta with lots of experience working for Panoz whom recently sold the ALMS series to Grand Am/NASCAR. It was quite interesting to chat with them on what the future of sports car racing in US has in store. I’m looking forward to go back to this track for sure, after driving around a few times it really is amazing, the elevation changes rival those of Mosport in Canada .